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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gaspee Essay Winners!

Western Hills student writers sweep Gaspee Days essay contest
Herald photos by Jen Cowart
IT’S A SWEEP: Pictured, from left, are Bethany Poland, Anthony DiBiasio, Aislinn Hanley and English teacher Henry Maine. Maine encouraged his eighth-graders to enter the Gaspee Days essay contest and was thrilled to find out that Western Hills swept the competition, taking the top three places. The students will be riding in this weekend’s Gaspee Days Parade.
Three Western Hills Middle School eighth-graders recently received word that they were the top three winners in the annual Gaspee Days essay contest.
Bethany Poland, Aislinn Hanley and Anthony DiBiasio – who finished first, second and third, respectively – each participated in the mandatory research and essay assignment for their English teacher Henry Maine’s class, but entering the contest is not mandatory.
“Each year I encourage them to enter, but they don’t have to if they don’t want to,” Maine said.
The prompt for the contest is supplied by the Gaspee Days Committee, and this year the students were asked to write their essay based on the following, which can be found at
“You and a friend are walking along the beach at Gaspee Point and you find an old piece of iron that looks like it had been through a fire. You wonder if it might have come from the Gaspee. Your friend, however, has never heard of the Gaspee. How would you explain it to him or her? What would you tell them about why the Gaspee Affair was so important and why we remember it today?”
Each student had a week of library time devoted to researching Gaspee history, and each had to come up with their own unique take on the prompt. Maine provided feedback and encouragement, even speaking to them from the site of the Gaspee area one night through his Instagram account and reminding them to complete their rough drafts for the assignment.
“I had diary entries from the Gaspee captain and from John Brown, who was against it,” said Aislinn. “So I had both points of view in my essay.
Bethany was careful in her essay not to overwhelm her readers with too much information at once.
“I used the information that we got from a power point to help me write my essay. I didn’t want too much information in it,” she said.
Maine explained that the creators of the contest look for a unique take on the prompt, as well as good writing styles.
“They really encourage the students to have a unique take, and Bethany’s angle was very good,” he said.
Anthony also used PowerPoint presentations in his research and watched a video from the History Channel before writing his essay.
“I wrote about a man standing at Gaspee Point and talking about the places that used to be there, and what they are now in the present day,” he said.
At first, Maine received word that the Western Hills students had taken the top two spots – not uncommon for his students in past years – but he was thrilled when Anthony was also notified, meaning that the teacher’s students had swept the competition.
“This is the third time that we’ve taken top spots in the competition,” Maine said.
The students each earned a monetary prize, as well as a chance to be featured in this weekend’s Gaspee Days Parade as they ride through town in a convertible.
Participating in the essay contest has changed the students’ perspective on local history and a fostered new respect for their home state.
“It was a fun assignment because I didn’t know about the Gaspee and I don’t like history that much, but I like Rhode Island and I think local history is interesting,” said Anthony. “I was amazed that the smallest state, Rhode Island, could have so much interesting history.”
Bethany agreed.
“To think that it was kind of the start of the Revolution, that this was what got people to start revolting, that was interesting,” she said.
Aislinn knew very little about the Gaspee as well.
“I didn’t know anything about the Gaspee, and this made Rhode Island a little more interesting to live in, to know that they kicked off the Revolution,” she said.
All three winners agreed that if given the opportunity to enter future competitions, they would definitely do so.
“My life motto is ‘Why not?’” said Hanley.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

All Classes-Vocabulary Test and Riddle Poem:

Write sentences for the poetry vocabulary words below.  Study for a vocabulary test on Thursday. Final draft of riddle poem is also due Thursday.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

All Classes-Riddle Poems:

Brainstorm your Riddle Poem.
Create an extensive word list of synonyms,
antonyms and rhyming words.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thursday, May 8, 2014

All Classes-"The Wreck of the Hespurus":

Read Pages 814-819 in your literature book.
Answer "Check Your Comprehension" 1-4
and "Critical Thinking" 1-5 on page 319.
Answer in complete sentences.
(click the picture below for the poem) 

Monday, May 5, 2014

All Classes-Paul Revere's Ride:

In your Literature Books, Read Pages 304-310.
On page 310, answer "Critical Thinking" 1-4 
and "Check Your Comprehension" 1-6.
Answer in complete sentences!
(click on the picture for the poem)